Column: Acclimation time critical to new Lions

Nate Bauer, Senior Editor
Blue White Illustrated

The arrival of the bulk of Penn State’s Class of 2017 to campus this weekend will be a welcoming one.

Not unlike many of Penn State other summer freshmen, parents will be dropping off their kids, some form of orientation for the university and the program itself will take place, and a whirlwind of fitting equipment and dipping toes into weight training with the Nittany Lions will transpire. In another five weeks, then, they’ll finally gear up for their first official team practices in preseason camp.

The experience will be decidedly different from the one head coach James Franklin had upon his arrival to East Stroudsburg in the summer of 1991.

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“I think back to my playing days,” Franklin said. “I remember my mom and my sister dropping me off, and you dropped off and the next day you were in practice. I mean, full-go, three-a-days going, where now with the NCAA you have an acclimation period.”

As Franklin had explained, those days are gone and have been gone for most NCAA programs for quite some time.

Rules prohibiting two-a-days have recently been implemented, meaning the newest Nittany Lions will never approach Franklin’s experience of three-a-days throughout his experience as a college football player. Starting with practices at 8 a.m., Franklin said the Warriors would practice again after lunch, and then wrapped up the day with a special teams practice each night.

Instead, in an evolution that Franklin said has been beneficial to today’s student athletes, this summer will amount to a transitional period in which the new class of Penn Staters can acclimate.

“I think one of the best things they did was allowing us to bring them up early for summer school. Because football you have to adjust academically, athletically and socially all at once. So, allowing them to come up and take a couple of classes in the summer and experience what a college class is like before getting a full load of 15 credits, as well as football full time, as well as adjusting socially, it allows them to get used to the training, ease them in from that standpoint,” said Franklin. “It allows you to take a couple of classes and experience what a college class is like and what to expect before taking a full load.”

Beyond the straightforward nature of simply getting adapted to college life itself and all that entails, Franklin also assigned this time in the summer as a core component to building up relationships that will last throughout the players’ college experiences. Paired with juniors and seniors that are already on campus and can help the guiding process, the young Nittany Lions will be asked to quickly handle what’s ahead of them.

No parents, a college academic workload, new friends, and the exciting and awe-inducing world of Division I football.

“It’s a time to help them get acclimated academically, athletically, socially, the whole package. And I think it's been probably one of the more positive things in college football. And I also think it's had a dramatic impact on graduation rates,” said Franklin. “Because the football players are able to take -- in a lot of sports -- are able to take credits every summer to get you further ahead to graduation. That's why we have so many guys that are graduating in three and a half years.”

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